A grandfather in a wheelchair says he's trapped in a care facility far from home because the state won't obey a court order to pay for home modifications.
San Bernardino resident Nicolas Mercado, a 54-year-old grandfather, was rendered a quadriplegic in 2011, when the big rig he was driving for work crashed. He's been living in a care facility in Garden Grove ever since, because his home lacks the modifications to fit his wheelchair.
His attorneys blame the California Insurance Guarantee Association, or CIGA, the state agency which took over the case after Mercado's insurance company went bankrupt. Even though Mercado has won several workers' compensation rulings to have his home modified, CIGA has appealed three times.
"The California Insurance Guarantee Association is on their third bite of the apple here to deny someone the ability to go home," Mercado's attorney Keith More said.
Mercado has now been fighting this battle for more than three years.
"I just want to be at home," he told NBC4, as his wife wiped his tears away. "I just hope nobody (goes) through what I'm going through."
The NBC4 I-Team spent a week calling CIGA, and asking about Mercado's case. Finally, after driving to the agency's Glendale headquarters, NBC4 got answers.
"We've looked into this and we think perhaps we could have taken a different path," admitted CIGA Executive Director Wayne Wilson, who personally reviewed Mercado's records at the NBC4 I-Team's request.
Wilson pointed out that CIGA is spending tens of thousands of dollars each month on Mercado's care, and has paid to add a ramp and widen some doorways. He went on to tell NBC4 it hasn't been enough.
"Mr. Mercado’s attorney and our Senior Executive here are going to meet early next week," Wilson continued. "He wants to have the support, love and affection of his family and wants to be with them and we’re going to see what we can do."
Mercado's wife Linda is hoping for the best, after years of painful partings at the end of every visit.
"I throw him a kiss, he throws me a kiss, and from there, you can imagine, sometimes, the way I leave," she said.
Both hope to soon be able to say goodnight, instead of goodbye.
If you are struggling with the state or a private company over a health insurance claim, you can contact the California Insurance Commissioner's consumer services toll-free hotline at 800-927-4357.